Image by Ryan Ashton
Men in rage strike those that wish them best. – William Shakespeare, Othello, Act 2, Scene 3
I believe that James MacDonald/HBC is in trouble. In trouble with the lawsuit against TED/wives/Roys and maybe in even in deeper trouble than we could have imagined, given the revelation of allegations of concerning expressions of anger on the part of MacDonald. Until now, the only documentation available to us in any significant way was from TED. Now, Julie Roys weighs in with thoughtful research and makes something quite clear. James MacDonald and HBC have created quite a mess for themselves. It is a mess of their own making and, if the allegations are correct, it appears to be a mess brought on by serious anger and control issues. (In.My. Opinion-for any lawyers who are taking notes.)
Julie Roys responds on Twitter and in World Magazine
It has long been speculated that Roys was eventually going to post whatever it was that made MacDonald/HBC get their trebuchets in working order. The first lob was the infamous lawsuit. Everyone has been waiting to see what it was that made MacDonald add Roys to his naughty list.
Roys responded in a big way, insinuating that she had to endure the lawsuit in order to finish her work.
This tweet appears to indicate that the lawsuit is somehow connected to her research which produced the article at World Magazine: Hard times at Harvest: Former elders, pastors, and staffers from Chicago’s Harvest Bible Chapel accuse the church of financial mismanagement and a culture of deception and intimidation. Knowing what little I know about news media, I’m sure that World magazine had their lawyers carefully vet this article. Since everyone involved knew that a lawsuit was already involved, I am sure that the information shared in her article is pristine. That has led me to believe that James MacDonald is in deep trouble.
Financial mismanagement and donations of Mark Driscoll by Mac/HBC?
Whoa. Wasn’t the lawsuit against TED supposedly about TED’s refusal to recognize the *gospel* handling of finances by Mac/HBC? Sure seems it to me. So, why is this article implying that HBC/HBF finances were problematic? Let me remind you that Mac/HBC will be required to prove that TED, their wives and Roys deliberately and knowingly lied about the financial situation of HBC. This article makes it more and more likely that TED was reasonable and even accurate in their assessment of *The Elephant Debt.*
Was Mac/HBC misusing funds of the entire Harvest Bible Fellowship to enrich just MacDonald’s church, HBC?
Remember when MacDonald was removed from his position (or did he resign?) from his position at Harvest Bible Fellowship? Was there more to the story? It appears so.
according to a leaked copy of a letter by David Wisen, a pastor at a former HBF church who participated in a July 2017 audit of HBF finances, the split occurred because HBF pastors believed Harvest had inappropriately used fellowship funds for its own purposes. (HBF was partly funded by member churches.) Wisen claimed Harvest owed HBF at least $1.8 million.
Bob Langdon, the former financial director of HBF who also participated in the audit, confirmed Wisen’s account. He said some of the items HBF paid for appeared to benefit Harvest Bible Chapel much more than the fellowship. For example, Langdon said HBF paid $500,000 for a church management systems upgrade that included new hardware for Harvest’s main campus in Elgin.
Money was given to Mark Driscoll for his new Scottsdale church.
This part of the report found me banging my head against the kitchen table which caused the pug dogs to run around in circles. MacDonald, a well known compadre of Mark Driscoll, allegedly gave him $50,000 for his new church in Scottsdale after Driscoll decided to flee the imploding Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll??? Seriously?
HBF also paid about $570,000 that Langdon said his boss, former Harvest Chief Financial Officer Fred Adams, had allocated for “overhead” and discretionary expenses. (Adams resigned at the end of 2017 and did not respond to a request for comment.) Langdon said those expenses included a percentage of the salaries for certain top Harvest Bible Chapel executives and a $50,000 donation to pastor Mark Driscoll’s Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Ariz
Then there is the question of shifting money between entities.
This mean one ministry will allow its income to be used by another separate ministry entity. This can be a bit of a *no no* in the auditing world if donors are not made told hat designated donations might be shifted to a general fund. Perhaps the fine print said this?
Over the years, Harvest has brought entities like HBF and Walk in the Word, both of which were formerly independent nonprofits, beneath the control of Harvest leadership, allowing the church to shift money between the different entities.
For example, an audit of 2017 finances shows that when HBF disbanded, Harvest took $1 million from Walk in the Word to pay for HBF’s liabilities.
Weird example of possible questionable use of funds: Apparently, at Camp Harvest (one of the entities of HBF) money went to maintain a fenced trophy whitetail deer herd.
According to a web page Harvest posted on Oct. 30, people may hunt at the camp for $6,000-$8,000 per deer, with proceeds going to a Camp Harvest scholarship fund. Harvest would not answer a question from WORLD about the overall cost of establishing, fencing, and maintaining the deer herd, but acknowledged in a statement that Walk in the Word pays the camp “a small annual maintenance fee for food, etc.” for the herd “as a thank you gift to the church.”
The budget was overseen by a small group which included the executive committee and top staffers.
Why do I get the feeling that it would be difficult to find out how much the pastor made? I sure as heck wouldn’t ask him, given the new revelations of worrisome expressions of anger. I wonder if the committee was controlled by MacDonald. This is a set up for potential problems. Can you imagine denying MacDonald the 50 grand to give to Driscoll?
(The executive committee is composed of MacDonald and a group of four to five elders.) According to the church’s bylaws, the committee has “sole responsibility” for approving the annual budget and salaries for MacDonald and senior staff.
Rusty Leonard, founder of the donor watchdog group Ministry Watch, said the existence of a budget visible only to a handful of top elders and staffers is very unusual at a church and a reflection of “hideous governance.”
James MacDonald’s lifestyle.
TWW has long been aware that MacDonald lived an upscale lifestyle. For years, there seems to be a fair amount of chit chat all over the internet about his housing arrangements.This answer from Mac/HBC sounds a bit bogus to me.I t reminded me of Furtick’s *It isn’t that great of a house* debacle. Wait, wasn’t MacDonald friendly with Furtick?
MacDonald told WORLD that his new home, appraised at $1.4 million, is under 5,000 square feet when the new home’s garage and basement are subtracted from the total. But according to an appraisal that an attorney for MacDonald submitted to the Rutland Township tax assessor’s office, the home has 6,891 square feet of gross living area in addition to a 2,600 square-foot, 10-car garage and a more than 2,000-square-foot finished basement. (The appraisal also noted the home’s “vaulted and designer ceilings, high-end finishes, luxury bathrooms, [and] granite counter and vanity tops.”)
In written comments on the size of MacDonald’s home, Harvest told WORLD that “two second floor rooms were left unfinished with no utilities to meet his square footage goal.”
ECFA *Seal of Approval”
Both World magazine and Christianity Today commented that the ECFA continues to hold Mac/HBC as members in good standing. When I first started blogging in 2009, I wrote an article on this group when I found out that Franklin Graham’s salary of $1,000,000+. ECFA informed me that they had no problem with that nor did they seem to be concerned that there were a number of Graham’s family members on his board. That isn’t what they are there for…
ECFA standards are based on the principles of good governance, accountability, integrity and transparency, and do not place dollar limits on the compensation of its members’ leaders.
That was 9 years ago. I no longer pay any attention to their seal of approval. There are better groups out there, in my opinion.
James MacDonald appears to own the elders.
If this is true, I wold not recommend anyone to trust the oversight of elders at HBC. Good night!
in practice, MacDonald exercises ultimate authority. (Church bylaws, amended in 2015, provide for the removal of the senior pastor, but only by a unanimous vote of the full elder board and the executive committee on which MacDonald sits. The bylaws also grant the senior pastor the power to “act in an emergency to suspend any elder board member … subject to earliest possible ratification by the executive committee.”)
Former elders, staff and church members allegedly stated they were abused when questioning leadership.
Do not join any church which does not allow a member to ask questions of the leadership. Mike Bryant, formerly a pastor of a church that was a member of the HBF, expressed concern over “MacDonald’s decision to invite televangelist T.D. Jakes to speak at MacDonald’s Elephant Room II conference.” The church was subsequently kicked out of HBF.
In an interview, MacDonald and Rick Donald told WORLD they regretted how they handled the expulsion of Bryant’s church, and would like a “private opportunity to apologize” to him.
I find it interesting that MacDonald admits to this event. This would seem to suggest that TED was correct in their assessment of the heavy handed tactics at HBC/HBF. I hope TED’s lawyers are taking notes.
One particularly uncomfortable situation occurred when a pastor decided to leave the church to start a new church. He was told to sign a noncompete resignation letter with a noncompete of a 50 mile radius. (This is rather extensive and probably would not able to be upheld in my experience.) He refused to do so. This pastor’s children were kicked out of the church run school forthwith.
It appears that this was over the alleged loss of people from HBCs church to this new church although that doesn’t appear to be the case (possibly 20.) This seems, once again, to be all about the Benjamins. Lawyers for TED, take note. Also, note the ridiculous response from the church.They sure can sling the rhetoric.
James MacDonald’s son, Executive Ministry Pastor Luke MacDonald, approached him after the service and accused him of recruiting people for his church plant. Maldaner said that when he denied recruiting anybody, Luke called him a “liar” in front of Lilly, his 6-year-old daughter, and bystanders in the auditorium. Former Harvest member Mark Gagliardi witnessed the incident and confirmed Maldaner’s account, though he said he couldn’t hear the entire conversation. (WORLD asked Harvest for a comment from Luke MacDonald: The church responded that the details of the conversation with Maldaner “are not a matter of public discussion and are covered in love.”)
Former pastors and staff are being threatened with legal action if they speak on record.
If this is true, it is obvious to me that Mac/HBC have much to hide. Why else would a Christian church threaten legal action and enforcement of nondisclosure agreements? I used to think that NDAst were important because, stupid me, I was thinking like a nurse. I would want to keep the confidentiality of the folks who came for counseling.
But, unless I’m mistaken, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. It appears that Mac/HBC are concerned that embarrassing things will get out about how they run the church. If so, this isn’t a church. It appears to be an entity run for the convenience and pleasure of MacDonald, his family and assorted compadres. (Whoops- almost forgot-in my opinion. Lawyers look for that.)
OTHER FORMER HARVEST elders, staffers, and members declined to speak on the record, citing nondisclosure and nondisparagementagreements they said Harvest pressured them to sign when they left. In the past several weeks, Harvest also has sent letters to some former employees threatening “legal recourse” should they violate their “agreements with the church.”
Does James MacDonald have serious and even alarming anger issues? This is a new revelation.
I had heard that MacDonald could get angry but I didn’t know that it was alleged that he acted out on his anger to this extent. I suggest that you all read the entire article to the very end where these examples are recorded. Let me leave you with this one example. If it is true, I believe that MacDonald needs help before something really bad happens.
Betsy Corning, the wife of former elder board chairman Dave Corning, said that in 2009, when her husband was opposing a plan by MacDonald to reorganize the elder board, she made a disturbing discovery at the lake house at Camp Harvest. This was a home she said MacDonald and his wife, Kathy, often used for family retreats.
On a wall in the garage, she found a target with a photo of her on it that had been shot with what appeared to be a pellet gun. The target included photos of other people, including James and Kathy MacDonald. But what shook Betsy was that she and another elder’s wife appeared to be prime targets: Hand-written beside their images were point values of 50 and 200 points respectively, while everyone else was assigned nominal point values.
In a phone interview with WORLD, MacDonald said there was no correlation between the point values and he and Kathy’s “value and appreciation for those people.” Though he admitted shooting at the target with a pellet pistol with his wife and kids, MacDonald said it was “all in good fun,” and said the target involved “a bunch of pictures of our closest friends and family off the kitchen bulletin board. … I should have seen the potential for that to be taken the wrong way. The fact that we didn’t even take the photos down indicates that we weren’t concerned about it being misinterpreted.” He added that he had vacationed with the family of the other woman in the picture as recently as 2016.
MacDonald said he apologized to the offended parties when he became aware of the offense. According to Dave and Betsy Corning, though, MacDonald did not apologize, but instead demanded an apology from Betsy for telling the other elder’s wife about the target.
Christianity Today publishes an immediate response from James MacDonald.
In Harvest Bible Chapel Disputes World Investigation of James MacDonald: Former staff and elders criticize shuffling of funds and 50-mile noncompete clauses for former pastors.
The article reviews Julie Roys report in World Magazine and then proceeds to post the inevitable “Mistakes were made but all is cool” response from MacDonald
I think the response may be helpful to those who are being sued because the church admits to *things.*
The plurality of elders ploy (We’re godly, doncha know?)
Maybe they think by playing the *local* church card, the Reformed SBC Calvinistas will jump to their defense.
It is a sad day when once-credible Christian publications consider the opinions of a few disgruntled former members, already rehashed ad nauseam, of greater weight than the carefully expressed viewpoint of a plurality of local church Elders.
Forget about the lawsuit, we’re the good guys.
Read it. Then think about the knife incident above and the lawsuits.
We have chosen the high road and refused to engage in public assault
Ummm, they admit to a former poor governance system?
TED’s and Roys’ lawyers, take note.
the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel designed a system of Elder government filled with meaningful accountability for staff and active involvement of volunteer Elders that exceeds in every way the former system filled with conflicts of interest and poor decision making.
ROFL-love has nothing whatsoever to do with what is going on.
We will continue to “owe no man anything except to love” (Romans 13:8)
Roys, TED and their wives will prevail in the lawsuit. James MacDonald has admitted to failures and that will play against him. He will have to prove that they all knowingly lied. Can anyone believe that now after Roys’ article in World Magazine?
PS: Regarding the SBC 2019 Pastor’s Conference
To the SBC 2019 Pastors Conference on Kingdom Character. Why is James MacDonald speaking? Could you explain why he exemplifies *kingdom character” to us little guys who blog after midnight?
Today’s news cycle and current events require us to consider what it means to live faithfully as Christians and as pastors. The Beatitudes will be a needed reminder to all of us about the character of Christ-followers. Our conduct grows out of our character and in order to be the people of God advancing the Kingdom of God, we need to have Kingdom character.
With the large number of character issues that we have faced these last couple of years both in the SBC and ministry in general, it is appropriate to remind pastors of Jesus’ vision for the Christian life. It is a compelling and challenging vision reminding us of our own need for Jesus. We hope you will join us in Birmingham! We hope you will be challenged and encouraged in your walk with Christ as we look to Jesus together during these two days.
And they wonder why people leave the church…